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Abandoned Las Vegas Strip project still for sale amid virus outbreak

A month ago, with the Strip effectively closed and job losses through the roof, creditors of a big property in the casino corridor were worried. Who would buy the spread amid all the turmoil?

The site, comprising the abandoned, partially built SkyVue observation-wheel project and other tracts nearby, was listed for sale in January. But the coronavirus pandemic had since brought Las Vegas’ economy “to a complete halt,” and funding was unavailable “for a deal of this size,” the creditors wrote in a court filing.

Plus, they said, amid the chaos “only the true bottom feeders are active.”

A mix of buyers has nonetheless shown interest in the property — and despite the turmoil sparked by the virus, the sales effort is moving ahead as planned.

A bankruptcy court auction is scheduled to be held May 19 for the 38.5-acre spread along Las Vegas Boulevard across from Mandalay Bay. Bids were due Thursday.

There was no guarantee even before the pandemic that the property would trade hands, and, like countless parcels in the valley, it boasts a long history of fizzled project ideas. Two giant concrete columns have been sticking out of the ground there for years, a constant reminder of the failed Ferris wheel venture.

But before the virus upended daily life and sparked statewide closures of casinos and other businesses, shutting down much of Nevada’s economy, the property was riding a strong wave.

‘Fairly healthy response’

Las Vegas was on solid footing at the start of 2020 with shrinking unemployment and billions of dollars’ worth of real estate projects. Land sales on the Strip had gained some momentum following a long, mostly quiet stretch coming out of the recession.

Mike Mixer of listing brokerage Colliers International said Friday that the sales campaign for the south Strip spread drew a “fairly healthy response” as the bid deadline neared, luring a mix of buyers who wanted part or all of the property.

There was no asking price. According to court records, 271 entities signed nondisclosure agreements about the offering as of April 13.

Attorneys for several parties in the case, including creditors, filed a motion April 6 to suspend the bankruptcy proceedings for up to 90 days or extend the auction for at least 60 days following the resumption of “regularly conducted business” in Nevada and across the nation.

Businesses are “spending their resources focusing on survival and combating the pandemic, rather than continuing to plan or close new acquisitions,” they wrote. “In this environment, as the parties have lately seen, only the true bottom feeders are active.”

The motion was denied, court records indicate.

Rocky past

The property, which also includes apartments and vacant plots, is owned by SkyVue developer Howard Bulloch of Compass Investments and partner David Gaffin, records indicate.

Bulloch announced in 2011 that plans for the 500-foot-tall observation wheel were being finalized. But the project reportedly ran into financial problems and was never finished.

The sales effort stems from a case that got underway in 2018, when a petitioner with a $13 million claim filed court papers to push the property’s holding companies into bankruptcy.

We’ll find out soon enough whether someone buys the nearly 40-acre spread, though one person who might know the future wasn’t around to say.

As seen a week ago, a psychic’s office near SkyVue had been boarded up — along with other properties on eerily quiet Las Vegas Boulevard.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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